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Float Fishing

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Float Fishing

Dan Catchings
District II Fisheries Supervisor
Eastaboga, Alabama

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How would you like to catch some good fish, see few if any anglers, avoid jet skis, bask in solitude and enjoy beautiful scenery? If you are the least bit interested, I suggest you give float fishing a try. Float fishing consists of launching your boat at one access point on a stream or river and fishing while floating downstream to your designated take-out point.

Chris Greene fishes the lower Coosa River from a canoe.The vessel of choice is generally the kayak, canoe or flat-bottom boat. In larger streams or rivers where low water is not a problem, the flat-bottom boat is probably the better choice. Flat-bottom aluminum johnboats in 12 or 14-ft. lengths may be equipped with a small outboard motor or a trolling motor to provide power when moving through long stretches of slack water. There is more casting room and stability in this craft. Although not needed on smaller streams, a hand controlled trolling motor is useful on larger streams and should be mounted on the transom. This is better than bow-mounting the motor, as it keeps the boat from swaying back and forth in the current. A fully charged battery should easily last for one-day floats. Don’t forget a small ice chest with cool drinks and lunch. Of course, you will want to have a paddle and a Coast Guard approved life preserver for each occupant.

Another useful item for a flat bottom boat is an anchor, such as a cylindrical window weight tied to the stern of the boat. By dropping this overboard below a shoal, it allows you more time to fish the pool without having to fight the current.

flint river by brian wilkesCounty Highway maps and U.S.G.S. topographical maps can be most beneficial in planning a float-fishing excursion. County maps can be ordered from the AL Dept. of Transportation, P.O. Box 303050, Montgomery, AL 36130-3050, Attn: Map Sales. The web site for further information is www.dot.state.al.us/Bureau/Equipment/maps.HTM. The most useful size will be the half inch = one mile. Topographical maps can be ordered from the Publications Sales Office, Geological Survey of Alabama, P.O. Box O, Tuscaloosa, AL 35486-9780. If you are unsure as to the map quadrant needed, request a free state index. Figure on covering about a mile per hour when float fishing. Of course, this will vary some depending on the gradient, current speed, and rest stops and breaks that you may take.

Check with canoe clubs in your area for recommendations on streams or rivers to float. Immediately prior to the float, check water levels to make sure you will be able to navigate the stretch selected and that it is at a safe flow. Attempting to float streams at high flows can be dangerous, so please use caution and let the stream flow subside before floating. Also, make sure that you have landowner permission to use the access points if they are not on state right-of-ways.

A good reference that gives details on plenty of possible float trips within the state is John H. Foshee’s book on Alabama Canoe Rides and Float Trips, 1986. Depending on your location, here are some suggested streams to consider for a float fishing trip: Flint River in Madison County; Terrapin Creek in Cleburne, Calhoun, and Cherokee counties; Little River above the Highway 35 bridge in DeKalb County; Locust Fork River in Blount County; Hatchet Creek in Coosa County; Tallapoosa River above Harris Reservoir in Randolph and Cleburne Counties; Sipsey River in Fayette, Tuscaloosa and Green counties; Choccolocco Creek in Calhoun and Talladega Counties; Cahaba River in St. Clair, Jefferson, Shelby, Bibb, and Perry counties; and the Coosa River below Jordan Dam in Elmore County. Additional floatable streams are found at www.OutdoorAlabama.com/fishing/freshwater/where/rivers/.

Fishing tackle will vary according to the angler’s preference and the type of fish sought. For the commonly targeted spotted bass or largemouth bass, spinning or bait-casting reels rigged on light to medium rods with 6 to 10 lb. test line will suffice. Crank baits, spinnerbaits, spinners, and plastic worms can all be effective lures.

For a float fishing trip, team up with a buddy since two vehicles are needed. If both vehicles can transport the boat, leave one of your vehicles at the take-out site before launching your vessel at the put-in site. If the boat is trailered, you will need to unload the boat at the put-in site, leave the transport vehicle at the take-out site and return to the put-in site. Load your gear and then it’s "anchors away." Now you are all set to enjoy the day’s fishing. Why not be adventurous and give float fishing a try? I don’t think you will be disappointed!

bass picture by Heather McCullers
by Heather McCullers, Eighth Grader

Alabama Legal Requirements for Canoes and Kayaks

A non-powered kayak or canoe does not have to be registered nor do you need an operator’s license. If you put a trolling motor on any boat, it becomes a motorized vessel on public waters.  The canoe or kayak would then have to be registered, and you would also have to have an operator’s license to operate it.

As far as safety equipment goes, you will need a U.S. Coast Guard approved life jacket, sized to fit, for everyone on the canoe. Anyone under 8 years old must wear a life jacket at all times while on board the canoe. If you operate within 800 feet below a hydroelectric dam or navigation lock/dam, everyone on board must wear a life jacket until you move beyond the 800 foot zone. If your canoe is over 16 feet, you will also need a US Coast Guard approved Type IV throwable (generally looks like a square seat cushion with handles) and a horn, whistle or bell (many people attach a whistle to their Type IV) to use as a sound producing device.

You would only be required by law to carry flares (night type) if you are boating in coastal waters. However, it has been my experience that often people canoe in remote areas where there is not a lot of boating traffic, so flares are good to carry in case you get stranded.

If you are going to operate at night and you are non-powered, you will need a white light, such as a lantern or flashlight that will be visible to other boaters. If you anchor out, this light must stay on at all times. If you put a motor on the canoe, you will have to use the same light configuration as any other motorboat: red and green light on the bow (red to port-left, green to starboard-right) and an all-around white light (visible 360 degrees) on the stern. Lighting kits that have battery operated lights can be clipped or clamped onto a canoe.

You would normally not need a fire extinguisher on your non-powered canoe, but if you are camping out and have a fuel consuming device, such as a stove or lantern, on board you would then need to carry a US Coast Guard approved fire extinguisher.

A list of businesses that rent canoes or kayaks may be found at the Alabama Scenic River Trail Website.

The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, age, gender, national origin, or disability in its hiring or employment practices nor in admission to, access to, or operations of its programs, services or activities. This publication is available in alternative formats upon request.
November 26, 2012.


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